Shaking Puppy Syndrome-Not What You Think

As sad as this is, there are times that one hears on the news about a parent who lost their cool and “shook” a baby with an ending result that is never good. While things like this can happen to pets, when one is talking about Shaking Puppy Syndrome this action is not what it is referring to. Believe it or not, this syndrome is actually a genetic disorder, which can show up more frequently in some breeds.

Shaking Puppy Syndrome or hypomyelination is a disorder that affects the myelin sheath covering the nerves. As the electrical impulse goes across the myelin sheath, certain areas of the nerve will not be covered by myelin and cause the impulse not to be carried properly. This improper signal causes muscles in these areas to “shake,” hence the name. While trembling of the muscles can have several causes for older dogs, shaking puppy syndrome shows up as early as two weeks after birth.

Beyond shaking, puppies with this syndrome have trouble standing and the legs may appear to be farther apart due to them trying to keep their balance. While this syndrome sounds scary most puppies will eventually recover by the time their second birthday comes around.

Now, if you observe your puppy shaking, do not assume that your dog has this disorder. This determination needs to be made by your veterinarian who will begin with a physical examination. Family history, if known, will be collected along with a neurological exam. The latter exam will be used to rule out any type of head or spinal injury. Blood will also be collect for an assortment of tests. This can include genetic, toxicities, and hormone imbalances. X-rays may also be taken to rule out the existence of tumors that may be pushing on nerves causing the shaking.

If everything comes back fine, in general, this means that your puppy has this syndrome. While there is no treatment for this disorder, the fact is that most puppies will recover and/or learn how to deal with the shaking. In doing so, they can have a normal life.

While every pet parent wants their puppy to be perfect, the fact is that a “special needs” fur baby brings bushels of unconditional love. But if you feel that this syndrome would be too heart-breaking for you to handle consider not owning male dogs, which are more likely to develop this syndrome or Springer Spaniel pups. As stated earlier, most dogs will improve with age but the male Springer Spaniel is the exception. In this breed of dog, puppies with this syndrome either die within six months of their birth or they are put down due the severity of the shaking.